Life Has a Sick Sense of Humor and Why I Write Comic Fantasy

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literaryliason:

Just wanted to share this, because, like so many other things (face included), my sister shares my thoughts and feelings on writing and life.

Originally posted on Lit Chic:

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Sometimes, the universe just points its finger at you and says, “ha ha!”

It’s no secret, life is hard, and sometimes it seems as though the cosmos is laughing at our struggles. I, personally, feel like I’ve become the butt of some cosmic joke. My mom was recently diagnosed with cancer, and the prognosis isn’t good at all. To say life’s been hard is an understatement. Not to mention my sister and I are still settling in to our new home situation. Then there’s the craziness at work, not to mention my novel’s impending deadline . . . it’s enough to send me over the deep end!

Several of my writing friends have suggested I hold off my novel’s debut, which is probably good advice, but writing seems to be the only thing keeping me sane right now, that and a bottle of roscato. Haha! Writing provides a means of…

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Tuesday Tip

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tip#1It’s Tuesday again–time for another tip. I’m going to apologize, because I started writing this today, which is a big mistake, but also a great learning experience. Many of my Tuesday tips actually come from writing them.

Long story short, I had been working on a draft for two days; however, there was no way I was going to get it polished in time to be a Tuesday tip (Wednesday perhaps, but that isn’t the name of this post). So I had to think of a new topic last minute, which got me thinking. How many of you post the same day you write the draft? How many of you like to put a full night’s sleep between you and your draft before posting so you can go back and look at it with a fresh mind?

I’m taking my own advice today by creating this post using a 5 step method that I normally utilize. Although I recommend taking two to three days to write a post (one day to research and outline, one to finish the draft, and the next to edit and revise), this method will allow you to write a well-structured post in a couple of days or in a last-minute pinch.

Step 1 Outline

It’s important to outline. If you don’t know what needs to be said and when, putting your draft together might look something like this:

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  1. choose a subject
    1. something you are passionate about.
    2. something you know a lot about
    3. something you’ve recently talked about with other people
    4. a current trend
  2. decide tone and style
    1. formal/informal
    2. serious, playful, professional, etc
    3. consider audience
    4. consider prior post
    5. consider your topic
  3. research
    1. what you don’t know
    2. what others have said on the topic
    3. sources (keep a list and links)

This last part can take an hour or more, which is why I suggest researching and outlining the first day, and drafting the next.

Step 2 Create the structure

This is where you take those bare bones and put them together to form a skeleton. Create your headings and subheadings. This will help you keep your thoughts organized when you go to write. For instance, let’s say you were writing a post about auto insurance for beginners. Your structural outline might look like this:

  1. Introduction
  2. Why you need auto insurance
  3. Coverages
    1. liability
      1. property damage
      2. bodily injury
    2. comprehensive and collision
      1. deductibles
      2. exclusions
    3. uninsured underinsured
    4. medical
    5. towing and rental reimbursement
  4. How to save money on auto insurance
    1. discounts
    2. compare rates
    3. combine policies
    4. safe driving
  5. Conclusion

Step 3 Write

Just write off-the cuff. I do recommend writing in order. Start with your introduction. Try to hook your reader as well as clearly state what you will be writing about. Fill in the headings and subheadings. Because there’s already an outline, it’s like filling in the blanks of a multiple choice quiz. Lastly, write your conclusion. Re-emphasizes main points and tie it back to your introduction. This is also a great place to call your readers to action, even if it is just to encourage them to comment and share.

Do not edit as you write. Your writing will be more natural and sound less robotic or contrived if you just write what you think as you think. Write quickly, fast enough to keep up wth your thoughts. What you write may be rough, nonsensical, even off topic, but just get the words down. Get all your thoughts out. Trust me, some of them will be good.

Step 4 Edit

You’ve spent all that time prepping, and now it’s time for surgery. Go back and tweak, chop, hack, burn, add and remove words until you are left with something that gets your message across. You are looking for the same things you would if you were editing your novel or a research paper.

  1. sentence flow
  2. redundancies
  3. spelling and grammar errors
  4. readability
  5. structure
  6. relevancy (make sure everything contributes to the big picture)

Step 5 The final touches

This is like adding jewelry and accessories to your wardrobe.

  1. choose images (it’s google time!)
  2. assign a  category
  3. don’t forget tags
  4. create links if you need them

Now you are ready to click publish. Don’t forget to share your post on twitter, Facebook, and other writing platforms that you have. Hopefully you found this helpful, and you don’t find yourself in a bind like I did. Follow the 5-step method and you’ll have a perfectly polished post by the day you need to publish it.

The Versatile Blogger Award

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This has been a good month for my blog. I reached my one-year anniversary; I’ve surpassed personal records for views, likes, and comments; and I’ve been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award.

I was nominated by Lori Maclaughlin, a fellow writer and Tolkien/fantasy fan. I’ve enjoyed reading her post, and so will you. Please check her out.versatile-blogger

http://lorilmaclaughlin.com/

The requirements are to list seven random facts about myself and nominate 15 other bloggers I’ve recently started following. Here goes . . .

Random Facts:

  1. I have a twin sister who also writes.  I get “twin senses” or fancy panic attacks whenever my sister is in danger. I consider myself a little psychic, or at least when it comes to my twin.  Check out her blog at http://litchicblog.wordpress.com/
  2. I love owls, Frozen, and The Hobbit. By “love” I mean obsess, really. If I see Frozen, Hobbit, or owl stuff, I have to buy it. Needless to say, my bathroom and bedroom are decorated in owls, and owls are invading the family room and the kitchen. Also, I know all of the songs from Frozen, even the bad ones.
  3. Aside from writing, I’m very good at drawing–or at least I used to be. It’s been awhile. About a year ago I sketched some concept art for my WIP. Since then, my only artistic endeavor has been on my son’s magnet doodle board.
  4. I was born with cataracts. No, I’m not blind, and yes, I can see. I know what you’re imagining, and I am not squinting two inches from my computer screen. There’s a healthy foot of distance between me and the technology.
  5. I love to sing, which my son loves and my sister hates. Maybe it’s my voice or the genre of music I favor. What’s so random about this fact? Well, I can sing in a deep man voice despite the fact that I have the body of a 12-year old boy. I think I fall between a man’s tenor and baritone, like Josh Groban. lol My favorite songs to sing are from The Phantom and Les Mis, which are my son’s favorite bedtime songs.
  6. Halloween is my favorite holiday. If you’ve ever watched Roseanne you’ll get a glimpse of what my family is like. This month, I’ve spent a paycheck on Halloween decorations. I’m also planning an elaborate costume that will match my sister’s.
  7. I don’t wear any makeup. I feel like that is a rare thing these days, because it seems like most women wear at least a little. With no statistics or percentages to back it up, I’m sure It’s still pretty safe to say I’m an oddity. My morning face matches my evening face: How many people can say that? I thought the older I got, the more I’d be tempted to wear it, but I’ve noticed the reverse. From one who has been all over the spectrum of ugly and beautiful, I’m just comfortable and accepting of how I look.

And my Nominees are . . .

  1. James D. Roberts offers his thoughts on writing, as well as advice. I really enjoy his writing style and his wit–and so will you.
  2. Nicholas Rossis writes children’s stories, sci-fi, and fantasy. I also follow him on Twitter, which is how I found out he had a blog.
  3. Roger Colby is a teacher and a writer. You’ll enjoy his blog. The title says it all “Writing Is Hard Work.”
  4. Ryan Lanz has a great blog for writing tips and information. I visit his blog for inspiration. That word pops up a lot in his post, so if you need some, you’ll know where to go.
  5. Christine Campbell is a published author, and I learn a lot about marketing, blogging, and self publishing from her post.
  6. the writerscafe247 is a very creative and fun blog that reminds me that writing doesn’t have to be a solitary act.
  7. Therin Knite  This is where I go to find awesome Indie books to purchase. Check it out.
  8. Tara Sparling is very knowledgeable about writing trends. Her post are fun and informative. If you aren’t following her, you should be.
  9. James writes for fans of Tolkien. If you want sneak peeks of the Hobbit movie, this is where to go to see the latest trailer, posters, rumors, etc.
  10. Dylan Hearn  is another talented author I follow on Twitter. Check out his blog.
  11. Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog is all about author connection and promotion. This is a great blog to find writing and editing advice.
  12. Roy Jacobsen writes great post about writing and editing. This is probably one of the best blogs for grammar advice.
  13. Steph Snow Her picture says it all. She offers unfiltered thoughts on writing and other topics.
  14. Kev Cooper is a fellow writer–and cat lover. He is a great writer to connect with.
  15. Chris McMullen is an experienced writer. Her blog is perfect if you want good advice and inspiration.

If you are nominated or would like to nominate someone for this award please visit:

http://versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com/vba-rules/

Where Did the Time Go?

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So, I did something that would be taboo in a marriage: I forgot my one-year anniversary. I started my blog a year ago on September 5, 2013. It is now the 13th, so I’m roughly eight days late. My anniversary fell on a Friday, so I know why I missed it. It was a busy day at work, I was figuring out a new visitation schedule for my son, and, as I’ve mentioned in another post, my family has been dealing with a serious illness. So between doctor appointments and flip-flopping schedules, it’s no wonder my anniversary fell under my radar. (And yet I remember when McDonald’s will be giving away free coffee and when GoT season 4 will be on DVD.)

My motto this month has been celebrate the small stuff, like baking banana bread with my mom, getting my office organized, etc. So I’m going to have a little belated one-year anniversary celebration.

imagesWhat did I accomplish this year, and what’s in store for next year? My very first blog post was about a write-in I had with my sister and her friend from college. I really enjoyed connecting with Sarah Wright, and getting to discuss writing and blogging. Sarah was actually the one who convinced me and my sister that blogging is essential to a writer’s platform. Please check out her blog at http://smwright.wordpress.com/

 I wrote my first post during the write-in; since then, I’ve written over 60 post and connected with over 200 writers, readers, and bloggers with WordPress. It’s been a great experience. I feel like I’m part of a writing community.

Since that first post, I’ve talked about writing: the ups and downs, challenges and accomplishments, and what to do and what not to do. In July, I started my first weekly feature: Tuesday Tips. I’ve had a lot of good response to these, so I will keep doing them until I run out of advice. Aside from helping other writers, I’d also like to support and promote them as well. I want to start a feature where I ask authors a question. Kind of like an author interview, but with one question that focuses on a particular strength I feel the writer has. This will be a great opportunity for them to help other writers by sharing their strengths as well as promote themselves, their writing, and gain exposure.

I’d also like to feature a poet a month. I’ve read some great poetry on WordPress, and I’d like to give poets a chance to spotlight a poem of their choice.

The third feature is a collaboration with my sister called “Twin Talk.” We are super excited about this feature, which would appear on both our blogs. We realize we aren’t using our twin gimmick enough. I mean, how awesome is it that I have an identical twin who also likes to write and blog and talk about writing! We’d like to pick one topic a month and discuss it and post our discussion on our blogs. The only reason we haven’t started this yet is because we need web cams or something to record our chats so we can upload the videos. Any advice on this would be welcome.

What do you like about my blog? What would you change? Any thoughts? Also, if you are interested in being featured on my blog, please let me know either in the comments below, via twitter, or the contact section I will be updating shortly.

Thank you all for making this a wonderful blogging year.

Tuesday Tip

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Let’s start at the very beginning–a very good place to start–but also the hardest place to start. If you’re like me, the beginning of your novel is the first and the final chapter you write. I’ve rewritten the beginning of my WIP three times already, and I may rewrite it again. The beginning is the most important part of your book. This is the chapter that introduces your readers to your story. It’s how you say hello and how do you do. If done right, the reader will do that one thing we want them to do more than anything else in the world: turn the page. Here’s some advice about what should and shouldn’t be in your first chapter.

What needs to be in the beginning

By beginning, I mean chapter one. A lot of stuff has to be in the first chapter, if not the very first paragraph. When baking bread, if you forget an ingredient, it won’t rise. Similarly, if you miss an ingredient in your first chapter, your story will fall flat. I’m not a very good baker; I once made cookies that tasted like shrimp. When it comes to writing, I always measure my ingredients carefully. So how do you make sure you don’t leave anything out? There are a lot of elements that need to be in the beginning, so to make it easy, they’ve been condensed to this very handy mnemonic device.

The three C’s: context, character, and conflict

  1. context Give the reader a sense of where they are. I’ve read a lot of books lately where I don’t know where the characters are or even who they are. It’s like trying to read a hand-made map written on a sticky note. If you’re wondering what you should tell your reader, think of the five W’s from elementary school (who, what, when, where, and why). You don’t want your readers to be disoriented, but this doesn’t mean you have to explain everything upfront or else your first paragraph becomes a major infodump. Establish only what the reader needs to know to enjoy the ride. Like a roller coaster, give them a handle bar and a lap belt so they don’t fly out of the cart on the loops and dips.
  2. character The reader will assume the first POV is the main protagonist. It’s kind of like how baby ducks assume the first thing they see is their mother.This doesn’t mean the first POV is the main character. There are exceptions to the rule, but it is a good idea, when you can, to start with the main character. Once you introduce them, you need your reader to connect with them. Make them care. Many beginner writers start with the least important information: what they look like. The most important information is what they want. Also what are your characters main positive and negative traits. These are important to know because they are the traits that will influence the character’s decisions. They  may be his foible, his downfall, what he must overcome, or how he achieves his goal.  If those are the only three things your reader learns about your character in the first chapter, that is fine. Physical appearance and back story can be sprinkled in later.
  3. conflict Conflict is simply what’s at stake. Whatever the main conflict in your story is, it should come out in the first chapter.

The hook I can’t type this without thinking of Mr. Krabs from Spongebob. Many of you have probably heard about hooks, but may not know what they are or how to include them in your opening. To quote Mr. Krabs,

 “They dangle down and draw you close with their pleasing shapes and their beguiling colors . . . they grab you by the britches . . . “

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I don’t think I could explain it better than that, especially that last part. That’s essentially what you want to do: Grab your reader and not let them go. It’s like snapping your fingers to get someone’s attention. Where do you put the hook? Why, the very first sentence, of course.

Types of hooks

  • scenery
  • action
  • foreshadow
  • dialogue
  • philosophical statement

how not to start your novel

Recently I reblogged an article about this subject. There are a lot of things you want to avoid, but based on my research, these seem to be the most unpopular beginnings.

  • starting with a dream sequence.
  • too much exposition and description (info dump)
  • starting too slow
  • starting with the wrong POV e.g., a one-time POV to introduce the main character
  • too little or too much action

I’d like to elaborate on this last one because it’s a pet peeve of mine. Action doesn’t always mean a battle. It just means the characters should be doing something. I’ve read a  lot of books where, way too early on, things start exploding, characters are dying, and cars are going through billboards. I don’t even care because I’m not invested in the characters yet. This would be like starting “The Lord of the Rings” with the scene where Frodo is being chased by the Nazgul out of the Shire. Do you know how confusing that would be? Who is Frodo? Why is he being chased? Who are these people with him? What is a Hobbit? Why do I care?

On the flipside, it’s aggravating when a story starts off too slow, like a Jessica Black song. Consider how bored you would be if the author described their character waking up at  7 a.m.  in the morning, getting dressed, going downstairs, eating a bowl of cereal, and going to the bus stop. After all this, her biggest conflict is whether to sit in the front or back seat of a car. Very little payoff.

Now you’re ready to tackle your beginning. Grab your readers by the britches and don’t let them go.

 

The Worst Way to Begin a Novel

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Originally posted on Nicholas C. Rossis:

epic failThe worst way to begin a novel: advice from literary agents“. That’s the title of a wonderful blog post by the Write Life. Literary agents are like ‘skilled readers’ who have gone through hundreds of novels, acquiring experience; they are also supposed to be in touch with ‘what people want’.

The post is actually quite funny – you should definitely check out the comments – and very informative. It did make me reflect on how I have started my novels and whether I have made some unspeakable mistakes. I kept reading through the posts, holding my breath and cringing about my own writing, saying to myself ‘oh thank God, I didn’t do that’ or ‘Phew, I almost did that’ and ‘oh dear, I might have done that’.

Now, agents obviously have different tastes than the average reader (or the publishing industry would not be in the sorry state it…

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What Do I Write?

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Looking back at my archives, I think it’s clear what my blog is about: Writing, of course. But is it important for my followers to know what I write? I’m curious to hear from you. Based on the overall look of my blog, what genre do you think I write? Please take the survey below. Also comments are welcome. Do you think the genre should be incorporated into the theme of the blog?